Cunnamulla dreams up a creative future

Cunnamulla P-12 State School is remote school located in South West Queensland caring for 126 students from Kindergarten through to Year 12. In 2010, it was ranked as the 13th worst school in the state for student absences. Despite these challenges, the school and the Cunnamulla Primary and Secondary P&C Association are dedicated to supporting a variety of school activities through policy-making, fundraising and financial planning. However, with limited resourcing, the school could not offer dance or drama classes in the school curriculum but was determined to find a way to give students this experience.

Dream becomes a reality

The P&C dreamt of employing two professional artists to facilitate dance and drama workshops, as part of a project they called Cunnamulla Dreaming.

The P&C was awarded a $10,000 grant from FRRR's CATCH grant program, thanks to support from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. These funds were put towards artist fees, travel, car hire and accommodation, enabling the engagement of two artist facilitators to conduct dance and drama workshops for students to develop confidence and performance skills.

Learning more than dance and drama

In his report back to FRRR, Director Peter Cook wrote: "There were people who said to him why do you need to spend all this money on staging and lighting and all of this kind of stuff. I said well why should these kids not have what other kids in other schools experience."

The program was not only an opportunity for students to learning dance and drama skills, but also support them in their learning. Literacy had been a particular focus for the school and the workshops provided a new and engaging way for the students to practise their writing, reading and speaking skills. Furthermore, the project became about developing the student’s self-confidence, resilience, creative skills and self-pride. Students from prep-to-Year 12 participated in the dance and drama workshops, introducing them to new way of expression and developing their confidence and performance skills. Since the majority of students Cunnamulla are Indigenous, it was a chance for many to connect with culture.

Program impacted the whole community

As the program became underway, it became clear to those involved that there was a much bigger opportunity for the students of Cunnamulla P-12. Weeklong workshops took place throughout November 2015. The dedication of the students to the production surprised many but only reaffirmed how dedicated and proud they were of what they were creating. The show reflected themes that the students wanted to share with their community; issues that they felt passionately about.

Over the course of the three performances more than five hundred students, parents and community members, almost a third of the town, came to see the show. The community embraced the student’s performance, proud of the degree of professionalism and commitment the students display; not a bad word could be said about the show.  It was a show that both the community and the student’s

“People could see the value of what we were doing, they could see the value for these kids, they could see the value for the community. And it was really successful, in the pride that the community felt in the kids afterwards.”

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